Muslims all around the world is preparing to welcome Ramadan! Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, and it is also the month of fasting or sawm.
The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, which means scorching heat or dryness. The first day of Ramadan is usually determined by observing the hilāl (the crescent), typically a day (or more) after the astronomical new moon. Since the new moon marks the beginning of the new month, Muslims can usually safely estimate the beginning of Ramadan this way.
During Ramadan, sawm is mandatory for adult Muslims, except those who are suffering from an illness, travelling, are elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, chronically ill or menstruating. Sawm is done from dawn until sunset, and during it, Muslims will refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations. They will also refrain from sinful behavior such as false speech (insulting, backbiting, cursing, lying, etc.) and fighting except in self-defense. Doing those will negate the reward of sawm.
Before sawm, Muslims will have meals before dawn, or often called suhoor. At sunset, after breaking the fast, Muslims will have meals that is often called iftar. According to tradition, The Prophet Muhammad broke his fast by eating three dates, and Muslims have since followed this tradition. Social gatherings, many times in a buffet style, are frequent at iftar, when Muslims will get together with families or friends. After iftar, Muslims will perform Tarawih, the extra prayers done on the nights of Ramadan.
Rewards for spiritual and good deeds are believed to be multiplied in Ramadan. Therefore Muslims are encouraged to increase their salat or prayers, and doing them in time. Also to recite the Quran and to increase doing good deeds and charity. During Ramadan, it is also mandatory for Muslims to give zakāt, which is a fixed percentage of the person’s savings to be given to the poor. Muslims will also give sadaqah, a voluntary charity given above and beyond what is required from the obligation of zakāt.
During Ramadan, there will be a special night, the Laylat al-Qadr, which is the holiest night of the year. This is the night in which Muslims believe the first revelation of the Quran was sent down to the Prophet Muhammad, stating that this night was “better than one thousand months [of proper worship]”, as stated in the Qu’ran. It is believed that Laylat al-Qadr occurs on an odd-numbered night during the last ten days of Ramadan.
If you do not celebrate Ramadan, you could still share the spirit by respecting those who perform sawm, by not eating, drinking or smoking in front of them. You could also help them prepare iftar. Or better yet, arrange an iftar for your fasting friends. Want to go a bit further? Arrange an iftar for the poor or the orphans!
What about you? Tell us your favorite Ramadan activity, or share your most memorable Ramadan celebration.